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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Super Mario transit maps

Artist Dave Delisle has combined two of my favorite subjects to geek-out on: Transit and old school video games. Yes, someone has finally drawn public transit systems as Super Mario and Mario Kart maps. Would you ever miss a train if you could get a star? Can we do something like this for Spokane? I'm particularly fond of "Mariobart" in San Francisco. Full story HERE.


Complete Streets transit zine launch party on August 8th

With the recent indecision about what to do with the downtown plaza, it's due time to get real about transit in Spokane. That's why I'm excited this antipicpated event is upon us: Futurewise and Spokane Transit Authority have teamed up to celebrate the launch of the Complete Streets Transit Zine on Friday August 8th, 6-8pm at the outdoor plaza of the MAC.

This the latest entry in a series of Complete Streets Zines that explore the streetscapes of the Spokane area through the eyes of Spokanites. The first publications focused on cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, respectively.

A lot of work went into this project.

Zines, always self-published, are incredibly labor intensive. The DIY zine approach makes perfect sense since Complete Streets are shaped by cultural, political, geographical and economic forces that go beyond transportation planning polices and urban design formulas. It's an opporunity to reach a whole new audience that wants a vibrant street life and the sense of belonging to a community- the chance to learn about a growing national movement.

Remix your street

Given some of the discussion on turning Main Ave in downtown Spokane into a two-way street, this new tool called Streetmix is perfectly timed. Consider it a practive for what you want your built environment, streetscapes, and elements for drivers, bikers, and pedestrians to look like. 

Developed at a hackathon by a group of Code for America fellows - Lou Huang, Ezra Spier, Marcin Wichary, Katie Lewis and Ans Bradford - it's hard to put down. 


Pope Francis forgoes Popemobile

While I'm not sure where the new head of the Catholic Church stands on climate change, Pope Francis is already shaking things up when it comes to environmental issues. In the beginning, he had made small efforts such as eating meals at home and speaking out for the poor in the face of globalization. I was also hopeful when he took the name Saint Francis, the patron saint of animals and the environment, after all. 

It is often cited that he loves transit. The Pope simply loves to take the bus as part of his committment to humble living though it seemed like he would have to give it up for security reasons. 

Meet the Pope Bus.

From Planetizen:

The Pope Bus is inspired by Pope Francis' own transportation preferences. When a cardinal in Buenos Aires, he gave up his chauffeured limousine and opted to ride the bus to work. Before accepting the Popedom, he insisted that the provision of a Pope Bus – with bullet-proof viewing chamber included – be written into his contract. And so it was.

Known for his humility and consideration of the less fortunate, Pope Francis says he hopes his new Pope Bus will provide service and comfort to the less fortunate of the world.

"If I'm going to be paraded across town like a museum exhibit, I might as well help get some people to work while I'm doing it," said the Pope in a telephone interview from a payphone newly installed by his request in Vatican City.

Tuesday Video: Complete Streets ordinance passes the Spokane City Council 5-2

Just in time for the holidays: Last night, the Spokane City Council passed the Complete Streets ordinance in a 5-2 vote. (The same for and against as the vote for the Complete Streets resolution in April 2010.) As Councilman Jon Snyder pointed out in his recap, it was an "epic meeting." Council Chambers were packed with folks eager to testify.

I'm very proud of all the people who worked so hard to pass the ordinance and create a groundswell of support.

Tuesday Video: In defense of public transportation

Today's feature is a short and sweet 30-second plea for the improvement of public transportation. It quickly illustrates how public transportation is used by 35 million Americans every day but eighty-four percent of transit systems have raised rates or cut services.

The facts remain: Washington’s transportation is the number one polluter in the state, responsible for emitting a whopping 45% of our global warming pollution. We can reduce our oil dependency and air pollution by increasing transit and building great places to live where jobs and homes are nearer to each other.

Transportation is also the second biggest cost for a household. The NRDC blog cites the American Public Transportation Association’s November Transit Savings Report, which says "individuals who switch from driving to riding public transportation can save, on average, almost $10,000 annually. These savings are based on the cost of commuting by public transportation compared to the November 18, 2011 average national gas price ($3.38 per gallon- reported by AAA) and the national unreserved monthly parking rate."

But many of these transit service reductions are leaving us stranded.

Stickman Knows Arrives in Spokane

Did you know an average of twenty pedestrians and bicyclists are hit in Spokane County every month. Here's how you can help: Spread the word about Stickman Knows. The goal of this campaign is to reduce the number of crashes, injuries, and fatalities by educating pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists alike about safe practices in Spokane County roadways. Check this press release from the Health District:

When it comes to collisions involving pedestrians or bicyclists and motorists in Spokane County, there is confusion for all users of the road on when to grant the right of way.
When to yield to others is just one of several safety messages the Spokane Regional Health District will stress as part of an educational campaign it will launch this week aimed at all users of the road. Under the name Stickman Knows, and through its associated Web site, stickmanknows.org, the campaign aims to help Spokane residents understand their roles in reducing the number of pedestrian and bicyclist collisions in Spokane County.
On average, 20 pedestrians and bicyclists are hit in Spokane County every month. Of the 997 pedestrian and bicyclist collisions occurring between 2006 and 2009, 3 percent resulted in death, while 11 percent resulted in serious injury. The goal of Stickman Knows is to reduce the number of crashes, injuries and fatalities by educating pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists alike about safe practices on Spokane area roadways.

Weekend Listening: The Replacements

I’m a music geek so it is with excitement that I launch a new category on Down To Earth: Weekend Listening. That’s right. Every Saturday I will post a song that has, at least in my mind, an environmental bent. To start things off, I present my beloved brats from Minneapolis, The Replacements. The song is called “Kiss Me On The Bus” from Tim, their 1985 major label debut. Suddenly, I want to catch that transfer.

Tuesday Video: Moment Of Zen

Confession: I’ve been on a bit of a transit kick lately.  However, this video is too cool to pass up. Once again, it’s about a phenomenon in New York where things are changing fast, particularly people’s expectations for space that is designed to accommodate humans instead of a vehicle. More than 200 miles of bike lanes have been created and places like Times Square are more pedestrian friendly and the city is experimenting with bus transportation. Swoon.

Take note Spokane.

Transportation Alternatives

My new obsession: Transportation Alternatives in New York City. This is a hip, three-pronged advocacy approach that covers bicycles, pedestrian, and public transit. The organizations looks at striking a “smarter balance for all road users; one that mandates only a minimum of automobile traffic is necessary, encourages the public health benefits of biking and walking, and invests in the efficiency of public transit.”

Even though streets and sidewalks are a stunning eighty percent of New York City’s public space, it certainly seems like a good idea for more cities to adopt this model. On Traffic Safety And Enforcement: “A bike lane is of little use with a car parked in it, and sidewalks are only as safe as the crosswalks that connect them. That’s why our members and volunteers work with local police precincts to make individual community streets safe to travel, and why we fight for those small changes to become policy citywide. We study what make streets most dangerous and fight for laws that protect the lives of cyclists and pedestrians. We’re your liaison to the people in charge of New York’s street safety - when you feel in danger walking and biking, T.A. is your direct line to the problem solvers.”

Check this awesome message from Transportation Alternatives’ executive director Paul Steely White:

PARK(ing) Day in Coeur d’Alene

Today was PARK(ing) Day and Spokane kept quiet unlike last year however Terry Harris, the executive director of the Kootenai Environmental Alliance, had some fun in Coeur d’Alene. 

Photo Courtesy Of KEA.

In roughly 140 cities around the planet, citizens will take back some of the parking spaces and use them to create mini parks, where they play games, do art projects, or just hang out. PARK(ing) Day started in 2005, when an organization called Rebar took it upon themselves to put down some sod, a bench, and a tree in one space in San Francisco for two hours - as long as the meter would allow. The mission was to “To call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate critical debate around how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban human habitat … at least until the meter runs out!”

I’m thrilled we had some local representation and I dug Terry thoughts on what happened in Coeur d’Alene earlier today:

But what exactly is the point of all this? Basically, that inexpensive parking is not really all that inexpensive. There are significant costs throughout our car culture, but today we focus particularly on costs associated with our insistence on being able to park our cars wherever we want.

Local-option taxes identified as best way to fund transit

A subcommittee of Gov. Butch Otter’s transportation funding task force on public transportation has come back to the full panel with recommendations for allowing local-option taxes, including local sales taxes, an expanded resort tax for larger cities or counties, property tax options and impact fees. “The committee didn’t feel there’s dollars available to have some kind of a state-sponsored funding program,” David Bennion, subcommittee chairman, told the full panel. State Sen. Shawn Keough, who served on the subcommittee, said the group decided “our job is to provide a toolbox full of tools and then let the people in that area decide what works for them … through the ballot box.” Lt. Gov. Brad Little praised the subcommittee’s work, saying if the state is going to look at transportation needs for the next 20 years, that look has to include public transportation. The full task force voted unanimously to accept the subcommittee’s report “for consideration at a later time.”

Introducing Transit Score

I love Walk Score, primarily because I can go “nah-nah-nah-nah” since I live in a neighborhood that scored an 82 while the average in Spokane is 59. It’s all about bragging rights after all. But the web tool calculates how walkable a neighborhood is and ranks it on a 100-point scale. Now, the same developers have released Transit Score, an application that looks how well-served you are by buses and rail lines in your location. You’ll see how far you have to walk to a transit stop and bus frequency and it assigns a similar 100-point scale.

But if I understand correctly, Transit Score is only serving 30 major U.S. cities and few others (available on this spreadsheet) that made their transit data available. For Spokane, you’ll notice Spokane Transit Authority is listed as an agency but according to the site, “does not provide open data.” So a civic software company called Front Seat that works to promote walkable neighborhoods wants you to let them know you support open data and utilize Transit Score by signing up HERE.  Next to your name, city, and email, the template reads “Transit apps help me get around. Make public transit data public using a standard format and license.” Also, after signing up you will receive occasional updates about transportation issues from Front Seat.

Do it. Let’s get Spokane on board.

Blueprint For Transit Oriented Communities

In April, Spokane will host a brilliant exhibition that brings together the work of Washington artists and planners around the theme of transit oriented communities. And by transit oriented communities we mean access to choices in housing and transportation by creating more mixed-use and mixed-income neighborhoods with excellent pedestrian, bicycle and transit connectivity. We need to allow more people access to homes, jobs, and community services without relying on personal vehicles. This reduces expenses and promotes better physical health, provided a sense of place and community. It is in this spirit two exhibits will take place side by side in the lobby and gallery of Downtown Spokane’s Saranac Building at 25 W. Main. We hope to see you there! Details below:

The Saranac gallery will showcase the works of 13 contemporary artists responding to themes of “transit” and our “built environment.” Their raw vision of the ever changing urban landscape will inspire us to rethink our perceptions of the space around us. Participating artists Nickolus Meisel, Jen Erickson, Jeremy Mangan, Roger Ralston, Nancy Hathaway, Rimas K. Simaitis, Quill Hyde, Jenny Hyde, Rajah Bose, Gabriel Brown, Lance Sinnema, Patrick Sullivan and Susan Jane Hall are all Washington based and affiliated with the Saranac Art Projects Cooperative.